August 15, 2022

SOUL Production Pt.1 by Brandi Ortiz

SOUL Production Pt.1 by Brandi Ortiz

Me. In a room with four other women. Three of which are east coasters. Send help.

July 20th

After a four-hour drive, we arrived in the infamous Sin City, known as LAS VEGAS! When we arrived at the hotel, Joie Comeiro (SOUL brands Chaos Coordinator) greeted us and led us to our hotel room, where we met Amanda Dewey (SOUL brand's new Master Trainer Mentee). While Mom attended her presenters’ event, Joie, Amanda, and I contemplated whether or not we should eat out. We decided on pizza. And I have no regrets.

July 21st

Around 7 AM, I woke up to three women chattering. They weren’t loud. Their voices were just the first I heard. I was surprised to find my mom missing and see Joie and Amanda with Christine Pilaroscia (Master Trainer), who arrived in the middle of the night. Midnight. But bless her, she woke no one up, not even me, the light sleeper. They were all awake by 4 AM, and since they’re all east coasters, I’m not surprised but admittedly horrified. I am NOT a morning person, so I’m pretty amazed when I see people so productive in the early morning. Meanwhile, I’m practically a zombie.

They had returned from the hotel’s gym, and my mom had stayed behind to spend more time on the treadmill and focus on her presentation. We chatted and ate Safe + Fair granola. Once Mom was finished, we packed up and headed to the convention center where IDEA 2022 was being held. We were one day away from the big event, so we stacked our booth with everything we would need. We hung up the shirts, pinned our banner, and laid out the rest of our merch. It was a beautiful spread.

Afterward, we explored the center and saw what to expect the next day. Tons of brands and products I didn’t recognize surrounded me. Seeing everything in preproduction and oddly nostalgic walking around the convention center was fascinating. After all, my sister and I grew up going to IDEA. Mom would be working the event, and my sister and I would explore and snag samples from the surrounding booths.

I remember there were these cookies and cream protein bars that I was a bit obsessed with. I can’t remember the name, but I remember begging Mom to buy a box and then guarding it like a greyhound.

This time, however, things were different. Lex (my sister) and I weren’t kids running rampant anymore. This time, it was Mom’s company showcasing at IDEA, and I could not be prouder of her.

I went in with the mindset to give it my best, smile, and most importantly, not embarrass my mom. I listened carefully to what I was told and did everything without being told twice. I wanted this weekend to be perfect.

Once we finished setting up and exploring, we returned to the hotel to relax until IDEA’s Ruby Red Party.

Back at the hotel, Mom and I were getting ready. I brought a red party dress just for the occasion. Unfortunately, I hadn’t worn it in a while, and when I put it on, I was horrified to realize it didn’t fit. The zipper wouldn’t budge. To say it was embarrassing was an understatement. I told Mom, and she offered me the second red pantsuit she had packed. It was a relief to fit into something because not fitting into that dress, one of my absolute favorite dresses was heartbreaking but also eye-opening.

Since middle school, I have always been self-conscious about my weight. I was poked at for being pudgy and called names but never believed change was an option, so I never tried to improve myself. I was convinced I was ugly and fat like the kids said and fell into a depression. But that particular story is for another time.

Not fitting into that dress made those feelings of hopelessness resurface briefly, and Mom could see it. She hugged me and reminded me that she would be there to help me through these feelings. I could tell she wanted me to feel happy in my skin, and so did I.

Mom, Christine, and I got ourselves ready and headed to where the Ruby Red Party was held. Many people were attending; some dressed casually while others were clad in glitter. There was kabob chicken, pita bread, and a dessert bar with cake pops and cookies. Usually, I would be all over the dessert bar after chowing down on some chicken, but since I couldn’t fit into the dress, I decided against it.

Again, many people were attending, so there was nowhere to sit. Satisfied we got pretty and made an appearance, we returned to our hotel room and called it quits for the night. As an introvert, I was proud of myself for making an effort when all I wanted was to curl up on the couch with a good movie.

July 22nd + July 23rd: The Convention

We arrived early for the convention, finalized our set-up, and awaited the conventioners. Our neighbors included VibraPlate, High Fitness, True North Seltzers, UniMed, and Zumba. From the start, music emanated from the Zumba booth, and the instructors began their routine. It was fun to watch their routine, and I was unconsciously moving to the beat.

I briefly toured the convention with my sister and then scoured with my Mom. Lex and Nico had led me to the Read Good Foods high-protein Chicken Nuggets. Yummy, but likely better when air-fried. Next to the R.G.F booth was True Made Foods which provided sauces sweetened with vegetables and fruits. Combine their BBQ sauce with the Real Good Foods. YES. It was like the convention center planned it. We got some bars from Think! The Think! booth workers even provided us with extra boxes that were out in the sun for too long. I’ll never say no to free food. We taste-tested prebiotic protein bars from Odyssey, and Mom bought two boxes. After more exploring and sampling, we returned to our booth, and I noted all the different kinds of people touring the convention. All sorts of body shapes were in attendance, thin, thick, and in between, and there was no set age range. There were people, young and old, exploring and arriving at the booth. People were excited about our Prize Spin Wheel. Plus, us handing our candy brought in a fair share of people. We even sold some tanks, passed out gift bags, and got folks to sign up for our big giveaway. We also encouraged people to attend my mom’s SOULfusion class the next day.

On the second and last day of the convention, I tried out the VibraPlate plates. I recommend one of their plates. I saw a guy practice a handstand on one of the plates, and then another try a headstand. How his brain wasn’t scrambled was beyond me, but it was fun to see him try. UniMed was nice enough to let me use one of their gadgets when I mentioned my shoulder pain. Amanda danced with the Zumba instructors, which was seriously so awesome to watch. I’m not coordinated in any way, but I loved their energy.

I noted while exploring the convention that we were the only booth to bring candy. At least, as far as I can tell.

Many people appreciated the candy bags provided, while some only stopped by the booth for candy. People that did that bothered me a bit, but what bothered me most when I came back from exploring the convention. Allison Poulis (Master Trainer) said a woman had walked past the booth, took one look, and said, “Wow, candy at a fitness convention,” in the most condescending tone.

That mindset is precisely what gives people like me the wrong impression about the fitness industry. The instructors, trainers, and people, in general, are set on shaming others for eating that extra slice of cake or snagging a few bits of chocolate. Like it’s a crime to treat yourself? People like this are one of the reasons I became so insecure about eating and my weight. I felt like I had to earn that treat at the end of the day. Otherwise, I didn’t deserve it, and I hate that mentality. I was ashamed when I wanted a second helping or dessert. I was ashamed to eat at all for the longest time.

Hearing this, Sarah Quintero (Master Trainer) brought up a story from this morning that also got my blood boiling. She was eating a donut when a woman walked past and said, “Good for you for eating that out in the open.” Seriously? Can no one eat a donut in public without getting a side eye or comment? I mean, why should anyone be ashamed when they’re enjoying themselves?

We need to take care of our bodies, yes. Eat right, exercise, and keep up maintenance. But no one should EVER be shamed for treating themselves. No one should have to earn the right to eat. And if someone wants a bit of chocolate, they should go for it. We should be allowed to treat ourselves.

Anyways, enough of me ranting. Let’s return to IDEA.

Mom had left early to clear her head before her session. Meanwhile, the ladies and I stayed behind at the booth to talk with any passersby. But as the clock counted down to class time, I became increasingly anxious.

To find out why, stay tuned for the following newsletter!

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